Culture News

Grand ArtHaus Studio and Exhibit Space Coming to Oasis on Grand in Downtown Phoenix

Soon, Grand Avenue will be home to a new arts destination. Laura Dragon, who operates {9} The Gallery, is working with artists Robert Gentile and Michael Viglietta to create a studio and exhibition space at Oasis on Grand.

Owned by Laurie and Tom Carmody, Oasis on Grand is a complex of artist live/work spaces created through an adaptive reuse project in 2011. Art is often exhibited in a central community space, and the complex also includes a 3,000-square-foot space that's been used on and off for exhibitions in recent years.

Dragon says Laurie approached her in mid-December about wanting to activate the space on a regular basis. By then, Dragon says, Carmody had already considered other options, including a restaurant or brewery, but settled on keeping with Oasis on Grand's art focus.

Dragon says they signed a one-year lease for the space on Thursday, February 18, and have options to renew the lease after that.  The trio is creating a working studio space to accommodate about a half-dozen artists. Dragon says it will include both individual work areas delineated by movable walls, and community work space with shared equipment. Eventually they’ll have a space for photo shoots, which photographers will be able to rent as needed.

And there will be regular exhibitions on First and Third Fridays, including the inaugural exhibition they're hoping to open in time for Art Detour on Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20.

First, they're working to get the space ready.

"They're doing the build-out for us," Dragon says of Carmody and her husband. One bathroom will get a slop sink, and the concrete floors are being touched up, Dragon says. They're also insulating the ceilings, and adding new lighting, heating, and air conditioning. "It will still have a raw, industrial look,"� Dragon says.

Gentile says he got involved in late January or early February, after asking Dragon whether she knew of any available studio space. He's excited about the venue's "prime location" and other new businesses in the area, including Barrio Cafe (opening soon) and Chartreuse. Those are located in the historic Bragg's Pie Factory that's home to several additional art spaces. In November, another art venue called Unexpected Art Gallery opened just off Grand Avenue. 

"I feel everything will be moving to Grand anyway because gentrification in Roosevelt Row will push all the artists out," Gentile says, referencing changes that include new residential developments, and fewer spaces with an indie vibe. "Every First Friday I come down here it's getting busier and busier," he says of Grand Avenue.

Michael Viglietta, an artist with many years experience in the film and television industry, recently moved from Venice to Phoenix. Viglietta connected with Dragon about potential studio spaces through mutual friends, and says he was drawn to Phoenix by the lower cost of working art spaces and several family members living in Chandler. "This is just kismet," he says of the group's new partnership and venue.

Dragon says they're planning to operate Grand ArtHaus as an artist collective, with up to a dozen members using the space on a rotating basis. They're working now to select members of a jury, which will evaluate potential collective members using criteria including CV and artist statement. She expects they'll issue the call for applications in April, and establish the collective by September or so. She's hoping several ASU graduate art students will consider taking part.

They're still finessing the fine print on financial details involving artists, such as monthly collective dues and the cost of working studio spaces. It's likely, Dragon says, that member artists who sell their work will pay 20 to 25 percent back to the collective. But benefits to artists include more than work and exhibition space, Dragon says.

"There's something that goes with having a tribe,"� she says. "It gives everybody a sense of empowerment."�

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble